Culturally insensitive patients - page 2

A little background: I am Chinese American. I live in a university town in the Midwest that is fairly multicultural, but that is also surrounded by farming communities that are generally 100% white... Read More

  1. by   mclennan
    How old are you?

    Years of dealing with this inures you to it. I have dealt with it for 40 years and don't care any more. People are stupid. Let it go.
  2. by   eatmysoxRN
    My accent is quite Northern and my southern patients spot it within minutes. I've lived in the South most of my life and I don't really notice an accent either way usually. It doesn't bother me to discuss that I am from up north. In fact, it gives me something to talk with them about instead of an awkward... "yeah, I guess I should know the answer to 'how are you feeling' is 'could be better otherwise I wouldn't be in the hospital'." I would answer politely and just tell them that you were born here and although you know about your heritage, you are much more familiar with the Midwest.
  3. by   tippytootagon
    Thanks for the replies. I don't take it as an insult. Like I said, I try to have a sense of humor about it. however, its frustrating when i politely correct them and they either say something like ,"oh come on, now where are you really from?" Or otherwise continue to talk to me like I'm a foreigner. I work on a neuro unit, so I suppose some short term memory loss may be at play here too.

    Thanks for your replies. I suppose I have to continue to let it roll off my back.
  4. by   1feistymama
    My grandmother embarassed the family often. She didn't have a problem with someone's color, but she had difficulty understanding anyone with an accent and preferred to cuss them rather than try to understand. I loved her because she was Grandma, but she was a cantankerous old bat even when she was healthy! Near the end, she had a catheter coming from her kidney and had to move into LTC. There, most of the CNAs had accents (mostly Filipino and Hispanic). The family was constantly apologizing for her. Most of these folks were very helpful and really sweet and trying their best to give her excellent care.

    I work for a very culturally diverse company and come into contact with people who have lived in many different places. I find people fascinating and love to learn about different cultures. Now, I've never told someone "you're English is good", but after we've had a few meetings and we're moving on to sharing a little personal conversation, I will ask someone where they're from and, if they're open to it, I may ask more questions about their culture (if they're from other countries or their families are). I have no wander lust myself and don't care to leave the comfort of my own country, but I like to hear how other people live. I explain my fascination to them and they are usually very happy to share.

    Some of your patients will be like my cantankerous old grandma but others are likely fascinated about learning about you. They don't know you're a boring American just like them.
  5. by   1feistymama
    Quote from eatmysoxRN
    My accent is quite Northern and my southern patients spot it within minutes.
    eatmysox - I'm in a similar boat. Raised in OK, I joke that twang is my first language. I only hear my accent now when I get upset or have recently been speaking to family from NC (then it's THICK). But, living in sunny San Diego, I encounter many people who hear it and even my family will stop sometimes and look at me with a crooked grin on their face because of something I've said. The two that come to mind off hand are...

    "I'm gonna thump your head in a minute" said to my middle child when he wasn't listening to me and
    "Would you get done already?" - I used that one often and never thought anything about it until my sis-n-law brought that one to my attention one day. Then I realized that really isn't proper grammar.

    I am proud of my twang, thank you very much, and I embrace it.
  6. by   Akewataru
    To the OP: The demographics of the area you are describing sounds eerily like a certain college town I know and love in Florida.
    Last edit by Akewataru on Apr 11, '13
  7. by   sharpeimom
    I look like my very fair-skinned blue eyed, white blonde Swedish dad, while my mom had dark olive skin and dark beautiful eyes. She was of English, Irish, and German descent. When I was with both parents or just my dad, people didn't say anything, but when my mom had me out in the world, people who didn't know both parents would either assume she was my nanny or make remarks like, "Isn't it nice you were able to adopt a blonde baby." or "I guess you'll have to tell her she's adopted eventually since no one would ever believe she's really yours." They were uninformed, idiots, thoughtless, but not intentionally cruel.

    My parents were both lawyers, but my mom saw people at home until I was about ten. After many many miscarriages and stillbirths, including my two triplet brothers, she was NOT about to entrust my care to strangers. No way! She was a family practice lawyer. She practiced what she used to refer to as "kitchen table law." She'd answer the door wearing jeans or khakis with a sweater or sweatshirt, and loafers or sneakers. Her waist length hair would either be in a French braid or in a ponytail. Her clients adored her because she immediately put them at ease. That is, the ones who didn't assume she was either my babysitter or nanny or the housekeeper.

    My husband grew up in the deep south and lived in France for several years. In exchange for teaching at a well known ancient university, his first PhD was paid for. We live in a rural area in the northeast and until w/he corrects the idea, most people think he's foreign. They assume he's French or Italian usually. If you ask ME, if I had to categorize his accent, it would be Southern. He never buys light bulbs, but rather light globes. He uses Y'all a LOT! He has almost every Gamecocks sweatshirt and t ever designed.

    I just remind myself sometimes that the average person isn't too observant and doesn't know much that's out of his own family-based experience. Hopefully, with the use of computers making us more global, that will soon change.
  8. by   RNperdiem
    The demographics of the country is changing. Those deeply insulated rural older folks will be the last of their kind. In 30 years, you might not get those questions much at all. What is once exotic becomes the everyday reality.
  9. by   Kidrn911
    I get comments from some patient's, but mainly coworkers because I wear a scrub skirt, instead of pants due to religious convictions. Even during a hospital orientation I was ousted. I particular got questioned in front everyone else how I would care for openly gay patient. As if I would treat them any different from anyone else, just because I am a Christian and practice my faith by wearing a skirt.

    It is not just demeaning, but it is hypocritical for me being harrassed, when I am sitting through a cultural lecture on how to respect other cultures, when I am not treated with respect.

    I am just tired of having to explain why I wear a skirt. I do my job, and follow the rules. I don't promote beliefs or religion at work.
  10. by   nrsang97
    I am a natural blonde and I have has so many questions if my hair is natural or dyed. I respond with people pay for my hair color.

    I also get questioned by my last name. Not so much anymore since it has been removed from our badges. People assumed I was Polish (not from Poland, just by my last name I am of Polish descent). My married name is Polish. I am in fact not Polish to my knowledge. I just said nope not Polish just married a Polish guy.

    I also get questioned about my age. I have had patient's in complete disbelief I was their nurse. I had them actually ask me my age. I would not tell them until they told me how old they thought I was. It was interesting to hear their answers as to how young they thought I was.

    OP if the patients keep it up just change the subject, or reiterate that you were born in America.
  11. by   eando
    I don't live in such a rural area but I have also experienced similar 'awkward comments' such as: "what's your REAL name?" (assuming that I must have a Japanese-sounding name) and similar situations as yours.

    It is very awkward, especially because technically I was born in Japan, speak the language, and have been and lived in Japan before. But I have spent most of my life in the US and consider myself American (as well as Japanese) and I completely agree with you that it can sometimes be frustrating that so many people assume that we are foreigners when in fact we are just as American as anybody else.

    I do feel that sometimes it is out of genuine curiosity but sometimes it can be pure ignorance, and people need to understand that just because you look 'different' that you are a foreigner. Maybe not in all cases, but in a lot of cases people I agree with you that people are being culturally insensitive. At the same time it is something that we probably all do so the best we can do is try to explain our background and try to get them to understand that we are just as American as they are
  12. by   nursej22
    I try to turn the conversation around: my family was from _____, what about you? What is your heritage?
    People are curious but they love to talk about themselves as well.
    Questions about language? Gosh, I've always wished a spoke a second language. How about you?

    And I find accents fascinating especially when folks have blended 2 or more.

    Wait until you are in your fifties and everyone assumes you are in your sixties, a grandparent and nearing retirement.
  13. by   GerberaDaisy
    I have experienced a similar situation, although it wasn't a patient asking the was another nurse! I was a travel nurse working in Southern California. I am white (with quite pale skin, due to those long Canadian winters) with blonde hair and brown eyes.
    Upon learning I was from Canada she exclaimed, "but you don't LOOK Canadian !"

    Say wha-at?

    I was literally too surprised (and at the moment too busy) to ask her what did she mean.
    So I never did find out what she thought Canadians "looked like" but I have often wondered. Lol

    To the OP- that sounds very frustrating! And while I'm sure your patients are just being curious, there does
    come a point when good manners (on their part) dictates they need to stop being so
    clueless & nosy!!